Reality bites in the corridors of power at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After the emotional highs of the derby win and the performance at the Emirates it’s been a week of reality checks for City fans.
Two home defeats, albeit against a good team in Derby and an excellent one in Wolves, were painful enough, but the publication of last year’s accounts provided a harsh reminder of the realities of a self-funding club trying to restructure its finances after relegation from the Premier League.
A fall in income of 25pc, largely due to loss of broadcasting revenue, and significant sums going in redundancy packages, have left a black hole in the club’s finances that has only been partially filled by the summer sales, resulting in a loss of £2.7m.
While the payments to Alex Neil and Jez Moxey will stick in the throat of many fans given the limited playing budget this season, most of us wanted change, but it’s the board that have to deal with the financial realities of those decisions. Imagine the outcry if either had done well then gone elsewhere with no compensation to the club? Contracts work both ways.
With parachute payments ceasing at the end of this season it means that further cost cutting may well be required in the summer if promotion isn’t achieved, but that’s an inevitable consequence of such a far-reaching restructure of the club and its academy. However, what’s really interesting is that the club had its record wage bill last season, emphasising the extent of the failures on the pitch but torpedoing the popular theory of lack of boardroom ambition.
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In some respects, the fact that City have been able to bring in players of the quality of Christoph Zimmermann, Marco Stiepermann and Tom Trybull cheaply, as well as shrewd loan acquisitions, is reassuring, but there is no doubt that Stuart Webber’s continuing ability to find talent for relatively little outlay is going to be a defining factor in terms of the club’s future development.
However, an equally important factor is fitness, with the last two games showing the toll that the club’s injury list and the glut of matches have taken on its relatively small squad. I’ve seen more mental errors from City players in this week’s games than in all of the previous eight combined and that is largely down to fatigue.
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For example, Trybull had been virtually faultless throughout the unbeaten run, but was a shadow of that player on Tuesday, and the same is true of several others.
While City gave a good account of themselves against Derby and were unlucky to have lost the game, the fact is that they were totally outclassed by Wolves and were fortunate that the margin of defeat wasn’t greater.
Their performance was flat and almost totally dependent upon James Maddison for any form of inspiration and, whilst the quality of the opposition must be factored in, it did nothing to dispel the growing suspicion that City’s ponderous build-up play is too easily negated by visiting teams.
However, whilst it’s disappointing that an excellent run has ended in such a fashion it’s important not to overreact or rush to judgment. This week’s injury update suggests that we may not be too far away from seeing a City side with both Nelson Oliveira and Alex Pritchard fully fit, and it is only then that we will be able to really assess what this squad is capable of.
A realistic assessment would be that City are currently an upper mid-table team with play-off potential, and while we’d all like more, it’s a big improvement on the situation two months ago. Developing teams always have blips and, given the mitigating circumstances, I hope that this week proves to be one before the squad kicks on again.
A win today and players returning to fitness would mean that we’ll all be feeling happier by the time the action returns, so come on, City!